The Chancellor of the Exchequer faced a blow to his popularity earlier this month after he delivered his spring statement and was issued with a fixed penalty notice following the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Operation Hillman’ investigation into partygate. Mr Sunak, who was first elected to the House of Commons as the MP for Richmond in 2015, even saw his popularity plummet among Tory Party members. ConservativeHome, an independent right-wing website, produced a poll which showed Mr Sunak was the only member of the Cabinet to have a negative net approval rating of -5.2 percent.
The collapse in support for the Chancellor has been profound.
Mr Sunak, who shunned the then Prime Minister David Cameron by backing Brexit in the 2016 referendum, had registered a record-beating approval rating for any Chancellor amongst the general public after unveiling the UK Government’s furlough scheme.
He even found himself leading ConservativeHome’s league table in November 2020 on 81.1 percent, which put him over nine points clear of the then International Trade Secretary Liz Truss in second place.
However, one expert told GB News’ Dan Wootton that the Chancellor could bounce back if he tackles the cost of living crisis.
Darren Grimes, who won his appeal against the Electoral Commission after being fined £20,000 when campaigning with BeLeave in the 2016 Brexit referendum, said: “Rishi Sunak is clearly not experiencing the lofty political heights he was experiencing not too long ago, especially during the pandemic when he was able to hand out cash like a bank.”
He added: “It looked likely two months ago that Boris Johnson was going to be on his way out.
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“The 1922 Committee were getting letters in, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it looked like Rishi Sunak would be put into the top job faster than I don’t know what, Dan.
“But politics ultimately changes faster than the lineup of the Sugababes, as you well know.”
Mr Grimes, who now hosts his own GB News show ‘Real Britain’ on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, went on to claim the Prime Minister’s response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had helped Mr Johnson look like a statesman.
However, he also suggested Mr Sunak should focus on tackling the cost of living crisis if he wants to restore public confidence.
The Bank of England has predicted inflation will hit a high of eight percent this spring and could continue to soar later this year.
Energy bills are among the costs which have notably increased after Ofgem’s price cap hike in April caused the average UK household bill to go up by £693 per year.
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A suspension of the temporary cut to VAT in the hospitality and tourism sector has also hit British consumers as the rate returned to its standard 20 percent rate from 12.5 percent.
Mr Grimes continued by claiming the Chancellor’s fortunes “can be turned around” if he “continues to actually take the cost of living crisis seriously”.
The former Liberal Democrat activist, who has since rebranded as a conservative-leaning commentator, pointed to Mr Sunak’s tightening of purse strings in response to Cabinet colleagues who are pleading with the Treasury for more cash as a key example of his fiscal prudence.
“I actually think though that Rishi Sunak would make a great Foreign Secretary and I think that might be what happens in the summer.
“There’s going to be a summer reshuffle, there often is.
“Boris Johnson’s going to want to have a clear break from partygate and all the rest of it, I know your viewers, Dan, are sick of hearing about partygate, as am I, but I think he will want a clear break.”
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The Chancellor first unveiled measures to help penny-pinching Brits deal with the cost of living crisis in February when he announced a £150 council tax rebate for up to 80 percent of British households.
Mr Sunak then revealed the Treasury had further measures to tackle the cost of living crisis in March, including a 5p fuel duty cut and a Brexit dividend which brought the VAT levy on insulation down to zero from five percent.
While the Chancellor had remained committed to a 1.25 percent hike in National Insurance contributions, he also told MPs the threshold will be raised from £9,500 to £12,570 in a move which is expected to see 30 million people benefit from a £6 billion personal tax cut.
However, Mr Sunak’s measures have been slammed by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves.
The ex-Bank of England economist told Express.co.uk at Labour’s local election launch in Worthing that the Chancellor’s plan was “absolutely pathetic” and showed Mr Sunak is “out of touch” with ordinary people.
Labour’s plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills, which is expected to cost £2 billion more than the Government’s proposals, instead includes a windfall tax on energy companies which could bring in as much as £3 billion.
But there are concerns, including from the TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive John O’Connell, that a windfall tax will “discourage investment and dissuade new players from entering the market”.